Cork 'streetwise' claim not so smart – refs don't like 'advice'
Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30
Cork are gambling, but will it work?
Their depiction of Mayo as "streetwise" is reminiscent of Kildare's portrayal of Donegal as cynical prior to the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final, which the Ulster champions won by a point in extra-time.
Niall Carew, then a Kildare selector, said in the run-up to the game that if the referee (David Coldrick) "lets Donegal continue with the cynical fouling of the opposition half-back line in particular, then yes, they will be hard to break down".
In a broadly similar comment on Mayo, Cork selector Ronan McCarthy said that "up front they'd be good at tactical fouling."
He also claimed that during this year's league clash, Mayo prevented Cork building out of defence on several occasions "without getting a yellow card."
He described it as "a skill in itself to be able to do that on a regular basis and not pick up yellow cards."
Cork manager Brian Cuthbert labelled Mayo as "streetwise" and added that he thought the referee (Cormac Reilly) would be "very important" on Sunday.
Cuthbert said he didn't want to "paint our lads as naive young fellas," but when his and McCarthy's comments are put together, the obvious conclusion is that Cork are keen to present Mayo in a less than positive light to Reilly. It's quite a risky strategy indeed.
Referees don't like to be advised in advance of a game on what to look out for, especially when the helpful hints are coming from one of the participants, who happen to believe the opposition need careful watching.
Still, it will add to the pressure on Reilly. He has been cast under an unwelcome spotlight even before the game gets under way.
And once it starts, both counties will be studying for signs of a reaction to the Cork comments.
If Reilly waves a yellow or black card – however warranted it may be – in Mayo's direction early on, the screams from irate supporters will echo all the way to Achill amid claims that he swallowed Cork's bait.
If he allows a Mayo player away on a borderline call, Cork will argue that he has taken against them because of the management's comments.
Reilly is a very experienced referee, who will ignore Cork's remarks.
Nevertheless, they are there in background, inviting ever-closer scrutiny on him and his fellow-officials.
The history of pre-match 'advice' from the participants supports the view that some things are best left unsaid because, by their nature, referees don't like to told how to conduct their business.